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The 3-Part Formula for Farmland Management: Technology, Process, Relationships

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Good farmland management is based on three related components: data-forward processes, strong relationships, and the right technology.

Excellent farmland management isn’t the result of guesswork and luck—staying on top of farmland maintenance requires strong organizational skills. You can develop these competencies over time, but as a general rule, you should pay attention to your farmland property with the same respect and commitment that you’d apply to any other asset. After all, for many landowners, their farmland is the most valuable asset they own.

To do this, you’ll need to adopt data-driven processes, leverage technology and develop strong relationships to ensure that you and your farmer meet your goals next season and in the long-term. Here’s how to address these three pillars in your own operation:

1. Establish data-driven processes for your farmland operation

When you’re looking to clean up your farmland management practices, the first step is to carefully examine the processes you already have in place.

Ask yourself how you expect to receive your rental payments and how you’ll decide whether or not to renew your current tenant’s lease. It’s important to think about how your farmer is doing and to keep tabs on your soil’s health.

Once you’ve opened up the hood on your operations machine:

  1. Decide what data is necessary. Look at the data you have on hand. Does it answer your questions? If not, you’ll need to identify and seek out other sources of information, whether through soil analysis or adopting new data collection practices in the season ahead.
  2. Set benchmarks. Using the data you have, analyze the current state of your farmland’s health and productivity. This is the basis on which you’ll set your goals.
  3. Establish goals. Decide where you’d like to see changes or improvements. Be sure to include a timeline, as change won’t necessarily happen overnight or even in one growing season.

This self-assessment is the first step in revamping your farmland operations, and it’s okay if you discover that you need more information. After all, there are more sources for farmland data available than ever before, which brings us to the second pillar.

2. Pay attention to your evolving technology and data needs

Technology is the number one tool for farmland management. Precision agriculture tools are widely available, and the data they generate can be an invaluable resource. Farmers today rely on this software to analyze the results of their operations, and this information is equally valuable to landowners.

If you’re working with farmers who use precision agriculture equipment but you’re not asking them to share the data these tools generate, you’re missing a major opportunity. It’s simple to print out a report, and if you know you plan to incorporate this data into your annual analysis, be sure to include data delivery practices in your next farmland rental agreement.

It’s also important to make sure you’re maintaining digital records of your farmland rental agreements and storing your records in an organized way. This can be as simple as establishing a naming convention for your digital files and entering data points into an Excel spreadsheet.

There are new digital farmland management options on the market, and if you’re looking for a user-friendly platform, try using Tillable’s to set up your next Hassle-Free Lease and track your farm’s data.

3. Build a strong relationship with your farmer

Although this is the third element in the formula for farmland management, it goes hand-in-hand with the first. You can make all the plans you want for your property, but unless you have a strong relationship with your farmer, you’re unlikely to meet your goals.

When you start to consider what your farmland management practices are and how you can improve them, don’t stop at asking yourself what your goals for the farm are. Reach out to your farmer and find out what they’re hoping to achieve in the next growing season and beyond.

As part of this conversation, you may identify that you need to start using new or different technology to get the right data to measure your farm’s progress. If they don’t want to share data with you, it may be time to start thinking about changing farmland tenants.

Your farmer will appreciate your investment in their stewardship of your land, and you’ll set yourself up for a committed relationship that supports executing a long-term plan for farmland success. It’s key that you develop a relationship built on loyalty and trust.

Strong communication around the outcomes you hope to achieve will help you both meet your goals for sustainability and profitability.

Use data to meet your goals for your farmland operation

There’s a vast amount of information available on the internet today aimed at helping farmland owners figure out how to improve their operations. By leveraging new technologies and agtech improvements, you can independently improve your farmland management skills and grow your knowledge base.

But this new information can be difficult to get a handle on and farmland management can be a lot of work. We understand that for some landowners it can feel overwhelming.

Tillable can help you find the right tenants and establish organized data practices to take care of your farm into the future without taking you out of the loop. If you’d like to learn more about how you can leverage data to meet your goals for the next growing season, reach out today to get the tools you need.

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Related questions

Also called precision ag, this is a broad term encompassing the use of a variety of technological tools and data to make farming more controlled and strategic. The data gathered by precision ag software tools are critical to help farmers intelligently manage their operations and help landowners understand and validate their farm’s performance.

There are 8 types of data that are most important to understanding farm performance and land stewardship:

  1. Yield data
  2. Soil sample tests
  3. Fertilizer maps and other nutrient inputs
  4. Herbicide applications
  5. Removal rate of the last season’s crop
  6. Planting and harvest dates
  7. What’s planted on the land and its maturity rate
  8. Seasonal data including precipitation, crop rotation and tillage

GPS-guided tractors, GPS-based soil sampling, enhanced equipment and software that allow for the regulation of planting, harvesting, fertilizing and other farm activities are all examples of precision or smart ag tools that can be used to collect farming data. However, more traditional methods such as elevator scale tickets, fertilizer receipts and manually recorded planting and harvest information can also be used when precision ag tools are not available.

Renting a farm out isn’t as big a challenge as it used to be, thanks in part to new technology and increased attention to farmland rental contracts. While traditionally, a lot of farmland leases have been negotiated at the local coffee shop and sealed with a handshake, more landowners and farmers are turning to technology solutions like Tillable to help them connect with good partners and ensure farm goals are documented and tracked.

Renting a farm out isn’t as big a challenge as it used to be, thanks in part to new technology and increased attention to farmland rental contracts. While traditionally, a lot of farmland leases have been negotiated at the local coffee shop and sealed with a handshake, more landowners and farmers are turning to technology solutions like Tillable to help them connect with good partners and ensure farm goals are documented and tracked.

Yes, one of the goals of any productive rental relationship is for both the farmer and the landowner to be able to earn a fair profit from the land while ensuring the land is also well cared for. For the landowner, this means earning passive income through renting the land to a farmer; for the farmer, it means renting the land at a fair market rate that allows them to make necessary profit from the crops grown on the land, after all expenses (including not just rent, but also input costs such as seed and fertilizer) are considered.

Once your farmland is rented, it’s important to ensure that farm-level data is being tracked and reviewed. This helps ensure the terms of your lease are being met while making sure the farm is performing to your expectations and the land is being well cared for. You can do this yourself, or you can partner with Tillable and we’ll take care of it for you, providing regular reports and insights to help you get a clearer picture of what’s happening on your farm.

Communicate, communicate, communicate. Landowners and farmers need to be open about their expectations for the farm and the terms of the agreement. Use data as the foundation of your discussions about farm performance and land stewardship—being able to discuss real data points will help make sure everyone’s on the same page, and it makes it easier to see that your shared goals for the farmland are being met. Landowners must be open to recommendations from their farmers in terms of necessary land improvements or other ways to enhance the profitability and health of the farm, and farmers must be forthcoming with the expertise and information to support those recommendations. Both parties should be committed to an agreement that satisfies a shared definition of what’s fair, and work together to help each other be successful while making sure the land thrives.

Related Resources

How to Rent Land for Farming

As a farmer looking for land to rent, you may have to do some research to find a landowner willing to lease out their land for farming. Land and farm owners can be skeptical of farmers they don’t know for many reasons. But if you look in the right places, and find the right lease agreement that works for both land owner and renter, you may find the acreage you need and make a healthy profit doing so.

Why Farmers Renting Land Need Farm Insurance Coverage

Just like landowners, lease-holding farmers need to have insurance coverage for their farm personal property that’s used and stored on rented land. Because accidents happen on the farm, it’s key to know you’ve got the right coverage for your operation.

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